Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Gregg Allman

I have a line I've been using for decades. It goes like this:

"1969 was the best year of my life. I got laid for the first time, I got drunk for the first time, I got high for the first time. It has been downhill ever since."

The one thing I leave out is that 1969 is also the year I discovered The Allman Brothers Band.

Gregg Allman's death knocked my feet out from under me. Took my breath away.

Not that it was a surprise - he has been sick for a while and I have been expecting it. Still, the man means too much to me - I do not want to accept that he is gone.

Been taking some body blows lately. When Leonard Cohen died last year I was devastated. I worshiped the man. He was a whole different animal from Gregg Allman but I loved his words - his poetry, his books, his song lyrics. And the songs themselves.

The way he lived his life. He was a fascinating man and an inspiration to me.

Butch Trucks - another founding father of The Allman Brothers - committed suicide on January 24, 2017.

That one crushed me too. My friend Phil and I had just seen Butch's band in August of 2016 in a small venue and they rocked the house. We both agreed it was every bit as good as any Allman Brothers concert we had ever seen.

I could not tell you the exact moment I first experienced The Allman Brothers Band.  But I can picture it in my head. I am sure I stopped whatever it is I was doing and said "Who the hell is this?" Because their music communicates directly with my soul.

I have been trying to explain this in here for a long time because I am sure there are many people who just don't understand. The Allman Brothers music is not just entertainment to me, it is not just something to enjoy - The Allman Brothers music is me.

Somehow, someway, it connects with who I am and releases my emotions, my humanity, my essence. They expressed my feelings better than I could myself.

They opened up a whole new world to me. I bought that first album and, after experiencing an epiphany of pure joy from listening to it, I checked out the songwriting credits and noticed that "Trouble No More" was not written by ABB. It was credited to McKinley Morganfield.

Who the hell is McKinley Morganfield? Turns out he was a blues dude nicknamed Muddy Waters. Also turned out his version was a re-working of a song written by a dude named Sleepy John Estes. Another blues dude.

I checked these guys out, loved what I heard, and just kept walking down the road to the blues, which I continue to love deeply today. Everything you love connects you to other things you can love.

Very cool fact: I wanted to make sure I had my facts straight and remembered I have The Allman Brothers first album in a frame upstairs. I brought it down, and took it out of the frame. Held the album cover in my hands. Pulled out the album and held that in my hands.

I held this album in my hands when I was 15 years old. I am now 63. It is blowing my mind. I have it sitting next to me right now. A direct connection to my youth; a direct connection to the birth of my love for this band and this music.

Fucking unbelievable.

I have been to many Allman Brothers concerts. I estimate somewhere around 30 or 40. I have so many memories of those times, so many stories, so much happiness.

One thing I always loved about the concerts was the pre-gaming in the parking lot. There were people my age and older, and a lot of people 20 years younger. We connected with those young people who wanted to know what concerts we had been to, who wanted to know how we got into the band, who wanted to know what the band meant to us.

We shared beers and joints and talked and laughed. And I was happy to know that another generation of fans dug the band for their legacy and their chops.

I have introduced people to The Allman Brothers in concert many times. Nephews, friends, my brother. A swirling network of people in my life that I have attended concerts with.

But there was a hardcore group of guys who went to Allman Brothers concerts every summer for a long time. Sometimes 10 or 15 guys, sometimes three or four. Always complete madness and joy.

I once went to a concert in Manchester NH alone because I could not get any of my friends to go. I sat next to some young people and we got along so well. Talking, laughing, digging the music.

Anyway, the die hards of the core group were me and Phil Camerlengo, a friend in my life since the second grade. Almost all of my concert memories are connected with Phil. Including two trips to New York City to see The Allman Brothers at the Beacon Theatre, which was a holy experience for true ABB fans.

We would usually gather at Phil's house for a pre-concert barbecue, and then motor on down to Great Woods for the show. We always had one friend who was the DD and thank God because we partied like there was no tomorrow.

The last trip to the Beacon was on October 27, 2014 - the second to last show The Allman Brothers ever played. Phil and I were able to go because my sons - Keith and Craig - bought me two tickets. For which I am eternally grateful - it is one of the greatest musical memories in my life.

Two old friends, Allman Brothers fanatics, set loose in NYC to worship in The Allman Brothers church and then party our way through the night in The Big Apple.

Fucking fantastic.

Duane Allman died in a motorcycle accident in 1972, one year after the band finally made it big time. So fucking sad. Since then Gregg has carried the mantel of The Allman Brothers on his shoulders.

Gregg's death closes the door on The Allman Brothers history with finality. That is what hurts so much. After they broke up in 2014 I held out hope that I would see them in one form or another. Then Butch Trucks died. Now Gregg.

The man with the ultimate blues voice. The ultimate in soulfulness. A voice that got better with age. Whiskey soaked. Reflecting the scars of a life hard lived.

Duane was the tough guy. Gregg was the sensitive one. Gregg did not want to lead the band, he did not want to make the decisions. That role was thrust upon him.

He protected the legacy in style.

Please know the six original members of The Allman Brothers Band: Duane Allman, Gregg Allman, Dicky Betts, Berry Oakley, Butch Trucks and Jai Johanny Johanson ( known as Jaimoe).

These six men came into my life and changed it. In 1969. When I was 15 years old. They made my life deeper, made it more enjoyable, they inspired me and made me feel alive.

Over and over again.

Dicky Betts and Jaimoe are the only surviving members. May they live forever.

To the rest I say requiescat in pace.

And to Gregg Allman I say thank you, man. For the passion, the commitment, the dedication to the blues, for continuing to get up every time you or the band were down, for reinventing yourself and the music continuously.

For keeping the music relevant and mind blowingly intense. For maintaining such a high level of quality in the songs your band performed.

Thank you Gregg for giving me something in my life I will never have again.

I will never love another band the way I love The Allman Brothers Band. No band will ever mean to me what The Allman Brothers Band did. It's impossible.

Thank you Gregg for coming into my life. I have always appreciated you and I will never forget you.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Monument Valley, Arizona

Recently bought a print of a road running through Monument Valley in Arizona. Had it mounted, hung it on the wall opposite my recliner.

I love the desert even though I have never been there. I wanted to mount that love on the wall where I could look at it every day.

This picture really gets to me; it brings me peace.......................and longing.

It hit me yesterday. I was looking at it and my body settled into this place of wistfulness.

I wanted to be on that road. I wanted to drive until I found a little town with a broken down bar with warped floors, where I would get hired on tending bar. A place where the men are hard, straight shooters, and the women are tough and sexy in an over the hill kind of way. A place where I could pour myself a shot to chug with my favorite customers.

A place where I could make just enough money to survive in my little shack on the desert.

Truthfully, I am tired of fighting. I want what I want. Which I will probably never have.

Even though I have entered a new phase, I would prefer to settle into something simple, something that fits comfortably.

Do not get me wrong. I am happy with the new job. Very happy with it. Even though I was tortured last night for two solid hours.

Tickets for the new season went on sale to the public for the first time. The Capitol Center does it right - they have a barbecue that is open to the public, beer and wine for sale, and people can order tickets for the shows they want to attend.

There are typically three of us in the box office. Last night there were four more people set up in the lobby to sell tickets also. That's how crazy busy it was.

I got there at 4:30. People were already milling about the lobby even though the sale didn't start until 6:00.

It was Day Five for me on the job and there were a lot of customer questions I just could not answer. Each time I had to flag down the boss man - "LORNE!!!!!!!!!!" - who was running around like a maniac trying to stay on top of things.

I hate being in that position - it's like a little kid crying for mommy. But there was no way around it.

It was a rough night but I survived it. Not rough like working in a warehouse or being a roofer, those are real jobs, but still...rough. And I still like the job. Got an internal vibe that this is going to work out beautifully.

My point is that everybody has a desert print in their life. Something or somewhere that, if they could make it part of their life, would bring them peace.

Or maybe we are all just dreamers. Always believing that a change to something or somewhere would make our lives perfect.

I have noticed that sometimes I look at the picture and it brings me peace. Sometimes I look at it and it makes me long for that broken down bar.

You gotta fight to survive. That is the reality for most of us. And we all will be fighting right up until the very end.

But if a little dreaming brings you momentary peace, even if it is tinged with longing or regret - what is the harm in that?

Monday, May 22, 2017

A Peak Behind The Curtain

Let's discuss.

A woman I worked with at the thrift shop - a volunteer - wrote this in the good luck card that she gave me: "You have changed the pulse of this place. Your incredible humor, sensitivity, and brilliant sense of human awareness have contributed to a wonderful working environment. Kudos to you; the Capitol Center will love you also."

I worked with her one day a week.

What could these words possibly mean? Could there be a kernel of truth in them? Or was she sucking up - attempting to gain access to the vast fortune Carol and I have amassed over the years?

Because we gotta be rich, right? Me and Carol? Carol has been working for 46 years. I include the years she spent at home with our sons because, as beautiful a thing as that was, it was also a lot of work and an enormous responsibility.

I have been working for 40 years. I got a five year reprieve when I went to college and spent my time wisely, drinking excessively and playing pinball.

Truth be told we ain't got nuthin', so if my co-worker is after the dough she will be frustrated.

She gave me a bottle of Crown Royal. This woman I worked with one day a week and is a volunteer, gave me whiskey. I thought that was extravagant.

Another volunteer - again, a woman I worked with one day a week, wrote me a nice card and gave me a $20 gift card to the liquor store. Again, something I felt was extravagant.

Here's my point. I have been getting positive comments from co-workers for a long time. I am not trying to sound like an egotistical bastard, I a merely examining a phenomenon.

The first time it happened I was floored. I was leaving The Mitre Corporation, it was 1983 and a bunch of us were heading out for dinner and drinks. One of the guys I worked with said to me something like "You don't see it, do you?" When I asked what the hell he was talking about he said something like "the reason there are so many people here is because people want to be around you. There is something about you that draws people to you."

I never felt that, never noticed it, so I was surprised at the comment.

The next occurrence that hit me was when I was leaving YPB Library Services in 2005. I started out in the warehouse there after the business Carol and I bought went down the tubes and our life was almost destroyed. Got to know the warehouse crew.

Through a weird fluke I ended up in the accounting office, dealing with the "professionals".

On my last day, a friend from the warehouse came up to my cubicle and said "I respect you a lot because you speak to the executives the same way you speak to us on the warehouse floor."

Personally, I consider that to be the highest compliment I ever got from a co-worker.

I left the liquor commission in 2016. My co-workers gave me a $300 bottle of scotch. Three hundred fucking dollars. They gave me an oversized card signed by them, by most of the liquor distributor reps and by a lot of customers.

I got home that day, and it was a beautiful June day, poured myself a helping of scotch and sat on the screened in porch to read the comments on the card. Some of which brought tears to my eyes.

Here's the heart of the matter. I never took too much of this stuff to heart. Never let it get in my head; at least I don't think so.

BECAUSE I never believed I was being honest about who I was. I put on so much of a show to survive, that I thought people were liking me for the wrong reasons.

This time around, at the thrift store, it feels different. I exposed a lot more of who I really am. Through some strange thought process in my head it seems easier to relax in these part time situations. Maybe because it doesn't feel like our very survival depends on the job. I can probably pick up part time work anytime I want to.

So I got to thinking that maybe there is something to what these people said to me. Maybe I have something in me that people like, that makes them feel good.

Maybe I am not the phony I always thought I was.

All I know is that I feel more confidant now than I ever have.

Starting to think it is OK to like myself.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Lakota Had A Nightmare

Lakota was sleeping in my lap the other night. Sound asleep.

Suddenly she jerked her head up and hissed.

I was startled but obviously not as deeply as she was.

She kept her head up for a minute or so and then settled back down in my lap and back to sleep.

I felt bad for whatever was in her head; I felt good that she felt comforted in my lap.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Feelin' Groovy

Holy Christ my brain is silly putty.

Week 1 of the new job is under the belt. So bizarre how a new experience speeds up time. The week blew by even though my time under the gun seemed to take forever. You know how it is at a new job - your mind is reeling while your heart is feeling (love to rhyme).

A new job also makes you feel like it is the only thing going on in your life, like nothing else matters, like there is no routine.

I like to make a good first impression, so on my first day on the job I ripped a computer monitor off the wall.

It was fucking hilarious.

There are three of us ticket sales impresarios situated in front of three ticket windows. Each of us has a computer on the floor and a monitor mounted on the wall next to us. Half way through the day I tried to re-situate the monitor to be more comfortable to look at.

It is attached to an arm that is attached to the wall - the arm moves in and out and side to side but does not move up and down. I tried to move it down to align it with my tri-focal glasses adjusted eyesight - the monitor came right off the wall. The bolts ripped right out of the wall, leaving raw, gaping holes and I was left standing there with the monitor in my hands.

How bizarre, how bizarre.

That was Tuesday - I had Wednesday off; they had a staff meeting that day. I was told on Thursday they had nicknamed me "The Hulk" at the meeting.

Anyway, I survived three days of "training". I always hate the word training - makes me sound like a fucking pet. But training it was.

My brain, my brain - whoooeeee baby. Going from tending bar to the liquor store, and from the liquor store to the thrift shop, I was dealing with different systems but still, essentially, cash registers - different but the same.

This job requires me to learn an online ticketing system. Pretty complex stuff. You know how it goes. "OK - to process this transaction all you gotta do is this. Unless this happens - then you gotta do this. But if that happens, you gotta do this. can actually access the information in this way and from this screen. And don't forget - if they are a member you gotta do this, if not, you gotta do that."

Still, on Day Two I was waiting on actual living human beings - not real smooth but not too bad.

On Day One they have a tradition in the office. After the boss bludgeons you with information for hours and after you spend some time watching your co-workers handle ticket orders, the boss man emails all the administrative people and invites them to come down and pretend they are customers so the new guy can get some practice in.

What they really do is torture you - they create the most bizarre situations, asks the most complicated questions, throw you the most challenging curves. It is actually kind of fun. And a good way to learn.

On Day Three I got to work a show. And.................on the day of a show there is a whole new set of rules and procedures.

It is pretty cool to experience "the feel" on the day of a show. Typically, the place is pretty quiet, pretty laid back. On show day, things start to heat up around three hours before the show begins. More activity, a little more intensity. Then two hours and one hour before the show - increasing activity, increasing intensity.

Suddenly people are filing in, picking up tickets, asking questions, shuckin' and jivin'. The box office has a "phone", more of a walkie talkie that picks up everything that is going on. You know, behind the scenes stuff, stuff the production crew is dealing with, stuff that maintenance is dealing with, stuff that ushers and house managers are dealing with.

You realize just what is involved in pulling off a show and the problems that pop up and have to be immediately dealt with.

And then...................the show starts. The box office stays open 30 minutes after the show starts so the music is pumping and shit be happening. Last night it was a Michael Jackson tribute performance so the place was really rockin'.

Pretty cool.

MAJOR PERK: I can attend any show I want to, FREE. As long as I am willing to stand up back (and sometimes get a seat if it is not filled after a while). AND I can bring Carol.

Pretty fucking cool.

Man, just walking up to the place is a blast. Walking under the marquee, looking up at it, thinking about all the very cool people I have seen here and all the very cool people I have yet to see here. Walking the walkway towards the lobby. Walking into the lobby. This ain't no corporate job, baby - no cold, impersonal corporate building. It has character. I am all about the vibe, baby and I ain't diggin' on no fucking phony, shallow vibe. I need the real deal.

The Capitol Center for the Arts is the real deal. Dripping with sincerity, history, and promise.

So I survived my first three days in show business, but I gotta tell you my brain was fried when I got home last night at 8:30. Leaking out of my ears. 24 hours this week of learning entirely new shit. Being put on the spot with real, live customers. Running reports, learning closing functions, getting to know the building and the people, soaking up the vibe and spreading some of my own around.

IMPRESSIONS: Gonna like this job. I already do. And the people seem to be very cool. Easy going. And the atmosphere is laid back and informal.

So there you have it. Another chapter in my life. Getting off the ground with a positive vibe.

I may figure out this life thing after all.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Act 369 (at least)

Jesus Christ, I lost a whole week? How the hell did that happen?

It was an eventful week - my last week at the thrift shop. I was breathing a major sigh of relief on the drive home Friday night. In fact I engineered my own private celebration for the famous final commute.

First of all it was a sunny, relatively warm night, which we have had precious few of in May. Delicious.

I brought along an Allman Brothers CD from the last concert they ever performed - October, 28, 2014 at the Beacon Theatre in NYC. Smokin' hot performance - the band understood the significance of the event and how very much it meant to their fans, and they were up to the task.

I still shake my head at parts of it in awe and disbelief.

I also brought along a nip of Crown Royal, which I snuck into the freezer at work so it would be properly chilled.

Before you start lecturing me about sippin' on a nip behind the wheel, save your breath. There have been times in my life (stupid, I admit) when I drove with a 750 ml bottle of Crown in my hand, merrily sipping it as I went. A nip ain't nothin', baby. If you get stopped you just chug it down, slide it into your pocket and say "Good evening, officer - how is your day going so far?"

Anyway, got the Brothers blasting, I'm leisurely sippin' away on fine whiskey, got the windows cracked a couple of inches, and I am feeling released, free as a bird, light as a fucking feather.

The thrift shop gig did not work out. It quickly became a burdensome weight, dragging me down into an ocean of despair, Mafia execution style, like a concrete block tied to my ankles.

(Editor's note: Wasn't quite that bad; I keep telling you I love words - just love to throw words together that sound good to me).

So here I go again. Starting tomorrow. Act 369. One more chance to reset my life.

Everything is apocalyptic to me. I don't see shades of grey, or stepping stones or neatly planned out life-moves.

I look at every move, every change, as this major fucking thing in my life. "Holy shit - I gotta make the most of this, gotta handle this right because if I don't I am positively screwed".

Truthfully, I have probably wasted chunks of my life with this kind of thinking.

Generally, life doesn't work that way - you bump along getting into this, trying that, little by little, no major nuclear explosions, and hopefully somewhere along the way you find this thing called happiness.

However, when you are suddenly sixty three years old, semi-retired, "shorter of breath and one day closer to death", to quote Pink Floyd - the challenge of getting it right does take on a little more weight.

I think I am making the right move with this job. The Capitol Center for the Performing Arts. I like the sound of that. I fucking love the sound of that.

I will try not to be apocalyptic about it. I just want to be happy there; I just want to be invested in and interested in and very good at this job.

I want to settle this work thing for a while so I can fiercely concentrate on making my soul happy, baby. Not hating my job will go a long way to opening up my diseased brain to possibilities.

Things I can do that emanate from my soul, my spirit, my essence, that will make me happy and bring a little more money in this house to make our lives easier and inspire hope of a dignified retirement.

Oh shit - did that sound apocalyptic?

Monday, May 8, 2017

Lonely At The Top

Man, I recently discovered a country singer/songwriter named Jamey Johnson.

He's been around for about 12 years and I am just getting around to him. That's the way it works sometimes with me - especially with country singers.

Today's country singers suck, I mean they really suck - they suck big time. As long as they use the words pick up truck, beer, gun, girlfriend, and dog in their songs they think that makes them authentic country singers.


You want to talk to me about country you talk to me about Willie, Waylon, Kris and Johnny - Merle Haggard, George Jones - Hank Williams. Patsy Cline, Tammy Wynette, Dolly Parton.

You get the picture. These people lived their songs and it shows. That, my friends is authenticity.

They have depth. And they are oh so cool.

Anyway I don't pay attention to today's country singers so that's how I missed Jamey Johnson. But I am glad I found him.

Love this dude. Kind of reminds me of Waylon, kind of reminds me of George Jones.

Fucking delicious.

Got a song called "Lonely At The Top". He's sitting in a bar whining to the guy next to him about how lonely it is at the top. As he says, kind of bragging, kind of whining.

He asks the guy if he wants a drink and the guy says:

"Thanks, I'll have a double, I've worked up a powerful thirst just listening to all your troubles, and while he makes that drink I'll smoke one if you got 'em, it might be lonely at the top but its a bitch at the bottom".

I love this guy. Jesus Christ, man, when I find new music to dig, especially when I find a new (to me) singer/songwriter to dig, I get delirious.

Love this guy's music. Something new to keep me happy.

Music is everything, baby.

Hope Doubled Up

Nothing like the prospect of a new job to fire up the hope gene.

You try to make changes in your life - gonna lose weight, gonna choose happiness, gonna learn new stuff, gonna treat yourself better, gonna get positive.

You know how it goes. You enjoy a burst of change-ness and then slip back into the routine.

Same old life. Same old you.

Change is hard. Because we are all hard wired to be who we are, even if who we are isn't who we want to be. Which is truly ironic. And tragic.

But over a lifetime you develop survival mechanisms, ways of reacting, faces you put forth, and these things become who you are even if they are not who you are. They become so deeply ingrained that thinking is not required to pull off the act.

And therein lies the problem. It takes thinking to effect change.

Changing jobs jerks you out of complacency.

Next Tuesday I start at a new job. I will be doing something completely new with people who are new to me in an environment that is new to me.

That is fresh, that is precious - that is a catalyst for change. I refuse to take it for granted this time around.

I am hyper-aware of my existence now - more so than ever before. Aware that I am alive and am living something called a life. Aware that I have pretty much pissed it away up to this point.

Aware that last year, when I semi-retired, was diagnosed with cancer, and took on a part time job, did not work out the way I thought it would.

Apparently it is not enough to sit back and say "Hey, I am semi-retired now - my life is about to get better".

I am going to attack this new job with a smile. Gonna learn it, gonna own it, gonna take full advantage of working in a creative environment that will lay every type of entertainment under the sun at my feet.

I am all about resuscitating my soul and it begins now.

Since I gave my notice at the thrift shop I started playing my guitar again. My theory is that this is the perfect time to rewire my brain. While I am hopeful, while I am positive, while I am jazzed.

I will dive into other pursuits as well, pursuits I have started and failed at before, things I know will make me whole.

The point is that I am immersing myself in hope. I am seizing on this change in my life to spark other changes in my life. Things I can control, things I can make happen - things that will make me happy and proud of myself.

And it is the time of year that some people describe as spring. You walk out of the house and the buds on the trees are ripe and ready to burst. There is pregnant beauty all around you, right on the edge of exploding into pure delight. You walk out of the house and you smile.

In another week you will walk out of your house and laugh, stunned at the amazing way nature keeps being reborn. Forcing you to realize that you too can be resurrected, rescued from the prison you have made for yourself into a life that satisfies you. A life that you feed and that feeds you back.

Hope bubbling up from my soul, hope provided by the beauty of nature - man I am getting such a strong and positive vibe that I feel so alive. So fucking alive.

At some point in your life, no matter how late it gets, you gotta give it your best shot. Otherwise your life trickles away in a sad, meaningless, waste of existence, which is the most heinous crime any human can commit.

I am jazzed, baby. I like who I am right now - at this very moment in time.

Gonna try to etch that me into stone.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

A Sad Story Indeed

I decided I was going to bet on The Kentucky Derby yesterday.

Earlier this year I got to thinking about new things I could do that would be radically different than anything I have done before. I am looking to exponentially change my life and make it more interesting to me.

I thought about horse racing and looked into racetracks in NH in my naivete. Thought it would be cool to visit a track from time to time and lay down a gentleman's wager.

There are no fucking horse racing tracks in NH. You can go to places that televise races from around the country and bet on them there but that ain't the same, baby. I was looking to be the next Charles Bukowski; sitting in the stands in my thrift shop clothes, betting on the horses, spitting and cussing, drinking whiskey.

I got the whiskey part down. Turns out that is all I got.

So I am digging on the run up to the Derby yesterday, doing my homework because I dig the race and want to know what is going on.

First thing I notice is a horse named "Always Dreaming". Boom; that's my horse. I swear on a fucking stack of bibles I did not know how highly rated the horse was at the time. As I did the research I realized this horse was the favorite.

And my mind started churning. I decided I was going to bet on The Kentucky Derby. I have never done that before, have never even bet on a horse race before. Used to go to the dogs many years ago but that ain't the ponies, baby.

I was excited. Found a betting website associated with Churchill Downs, did some research, satisfied myself it was legit and went for it.

Tried to lay down a $20 bet on Always Dreaming - to win.

At first I tried it through Paypal. When I originally set up the Paypal account I set it to receive payments in anticipation of the millions of dollars that were to come my way rewarding my writing skills. So far I have received $9.41.

Apparently I did not set up the account to be able to receive money from my bank account, because I was not anticipating using Paypal to buy anything. Bottom line - I could not fund the bet through Paypal.

Fuck it - no big deal. I will use my debit card. Entered all the pertinent information and got rejected. Not because there is no money in the account - there is plenty of money in the account - come on, I am not a fucking lowlife.

The message said they could not accept that particular card. Even though the option was "Credit/debit card, Mastercard/Visa." My card is a Mastercard debit card.

Fuck it - no big deal. Everybody knows debit cards are the weak little sisters of credit cards anyway.

I go for my credit card - a straight up credit card. A Chase credit card with plenty of room on it.

Rejected. Fucking rejected. Same message - "we cannot accept this card".


I read the fine print on the betting website to make sure there was no betting minimum. There is - $2.

Blood was running out of my eyeballs.

I never got the bet down.

Always Dreaming won the race.

I would have won $114.00. After deducting my $20 bet and the $5 processing fee, I would have walked away with $89.

In 2017 I am trying to look on the bright side. The bright side is I may have discovered a new diversion. Betting on the horses. Even if I can't be there I can still bet and gambling is exciting.

I will find out why my bet could not be processed, I will fix that and I will bet.

Definitely on The Belmont Stakes, definitely on The Preakness. Maybe on other races too.

Carol is very excited about this. Especially after I explained that this could be our new "retirement in comfort" strategy.

Everybody knows that betting on the ponies is a sound financial investment. AND, I would have won the first bet I ever made had I got it down.

So obviously I have a knack for it.

As The Pogues sang in "Fairytale of New York": "Got on a lucky one, came in at eighteen to one, I've got a feeling this year's for me and you...........................I love you baby, I can see a better time, when all our dreams come true."

2017, Carol. Our year.

With my solid accounting background and my innate knack for picking a winner, we are going to ride the ponies to freedom.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

I AM Getting Older, You Know

I died as a mineral and became a plant,
I died as plant and rose to animal,
I died as animal and I was Man.
Why should I fear? When was I less by dying?


The Intangibles of Being Human

I am not a basketball fan and probably never will be until somebody explains to me what a foul is in the NBA.

Many times it looks to me like a defender touches a shooters arm after he takes a shot - how the hell is that a foul? Then you have the phantom fouls - the no touch fouls that get called anyway. And forget about traveling or palming the ball, I don't even want to talk about that.

The only fouls that should get called are the really violent ones, like when a defender takes a baseball bat to the shooters head - just to distract him.

I enjoy watching basketball, I really do. I enjoy sports in general. Hell, I love watching bull riding. Don't you?

It's just that basketball is the only one of the four major sports that I don't understand. This is proven to me every time my sons are at the house and we watch the C's. They notice things that I completely miss; they see "fouls" before they are even called; they understand and appreciate the subtleties of the game.

When they discuss the game in real time as we are watching I feel like I am listening to play by play in Lithuanian.

Carol has been a basketball fan all her life. Went to the C's games when you could afford it and when you could just decide to go on a whim. She gets it too. Compared to the rest of the family I am a neanderthal when it comes to basketball.

However I have developed great respect for Isaiah Thomas.

His 22 year old sister, Chyna, died on the day before the NBA playoffs began. The next night Isaiah played and scored 33 points. In that first series against the Bulls, he averaged 23 points per game. He led the C's to a first round victory. They are now playing the Washington Wizards.

In Game 2 against the Wizards, Isaiah scored a career high 53 points. Fifty three fucking points. On his sister's birthday - she would have been 23.

He is demonstrating to the world what determination is all about; what focus and and dealing with adversity are all about; what it means to be an adult - what it means to be human.

This in a sport that I believe showcases many frivolous humans; I think the NBA employs more superficial athletes than any other professional sport.

I watched my brother show the same strength in 2014. On December 17, 2014 my brother's only son Jonathan died from a heroin overdose. On December 25, 2014 my brother was at my house with my family for the Christmas holiday.

He called around 6 a.m. on December 17 to tell me about Jonathan's death. Even then, in the middle of enormous pain and loss, he apologized to me for having to call with the news because he knew we got a call the morning before telling us that my brother-in-law Sarge had died.

On the day my brother lost his only son he was thinking about me when he gave me the news.

I have never seen such strength in my life and am not sure I am man enough to be as strong. It is difficult for me to consider that because it forces me to think about something I do not ever want to have to think about.

I can only say that from the day Jonathan died until today, my brother Ed has showed nothing but strength and grace, and determination. Ultimately he has been rewarded by getting a great job and a solid future after losing practically everything battling his son's addiction, trying to protect and save him.

I don't know how people find the strength to do what they do. I don't know how Ed does it; I don't know how Isaiah is doing it. It is an intangible human trait.

It makes me want to have faith in the human race, against all odds.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

All For The Best

This past Sunday was not a typical Sunday for me.

Instead of laying around the floor, drinking whiskey and eating Hostess cupcakes ("I can actually hear you getting fatter"), I decided to attend a musical based on a novella written by Voltaire and set to music by Leonard Bernstein.

Just to set the record straight - Voltaire and Bernstein were not buddies, they did not hang together; Voltaire wrote Candide in 1759, Bernstein wrote the score between 1953 and 1956.

Sometimes it takes 197 years for creative ideas to come to full fruition. I have been writing a whole hell of a lot of stuff since I semi-retired. I figure if any of it gets published by 2214 I will really have accomplished something. Please donate any proceeds from the sale of my work to the Whiskey Lovers of America Foundation.

My knowledge is spotty in some areas. In fact there are a lot of areas where I have only a passing awareness of stuff. Before Sunday, if you asked me if I knew what Candide was I would have said "Yeah, it is a play or a musical or some sort of theatrical production." But I could not have explained the plot (I still can't and I just experienced the goddamn thing) or told you who wrote it.

If you asked me who Voltaire was I would have told you he was a French philosopher.

Other than that I knew nothing.

I decided to dig a little deeper. Voltaire is described as "philosopher, historian, writer". Jesus Christ, if you tried to describe me you would be hard pressed to come up with one word. Dreamer, maybe.

I have a friend, Rich Gulla, who, when he introduces me to people says "This is my friend, Joe - he is a writer".

I love him for that. I don't consider myself a writer because I have not accomplished anything with my words. And I know there are millions of people out there who can write but are working in warehouses and on pig farms. Are we all writers? Or are we all dreamers?

Voltaire was quite an accomplished dude. He was considered one of the leading writers of the Enlightenment. He was imprisoned twice and spent years living in exile because he had the balls to speak up against the political injustices of the time.

He wrote Candide as a way to ridicule the prevailing philosophy of the time espoused by the Optimists, which essentially said "all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds". Apparently the tipping point for Voltaire came after two devastating earthquakes that killed tens of thousands of people. Optimists comforted earthquake victims by saying the earthquakes had happened for "the best".

Voltaire's response: "The heirs of the dead would not come into their fortunes, masons would grow rich in rebuilding the city, beasts would grow fat on corpses buried in the ruins; such is the natural effect of natural causes. So don't worry about your own particular evil; you are contributing to the general good".

Does that not kick ass?

My initial intent was to compare Candide to the kind of stuff Monty Python did. The plot is absurd, intentionally so for reasons I don't have time to get into, but as I watched I thought about the Python boys.

Ultimately I couldn't do it; it is a bit of a stretch (although I still believe I could come up with something if I worked at it).

Anyway, the musical is fantastic. Absurd, entertaining, funny - it was different from any musical I have ever experienced. Which is good - I am always looking for different.

Voltaire was an impressive dude. Leonard Bernstein was an impressive dude; if you know the story of Candide, who the hell in his right mind would think he could set it to music?

Christ, man - you got people like this in the world, then you got me. My whole focus for the day is to write a little bit, exercise, eat some cereal, go to work, come home with a pizza, drink some beer, a little whiskey and find something offbeat to watch on TV.

Now that I think about it, maybe my words will not even be published in 2214.

But I suppose it's all for the best.